A quick programming note before we get started: No Week 16 rankings today, because you just really can't do that until after the final games of the week have been played, and we've still got two more coming tonight. We'll have full previews for each position along with my rankings in tomorrow's edition, including all of the injuries you need to know about. Hopefully the Washington-Eagles and Seahawks-Rams matchups are a bit better for Fantasy production than last night's, though that wouldn't be in keeping with how this week has gone, so maybe that's asking too much.
The Vikings, Bears, Browns, and Raiders had just six offensive touchdowns in their two games last night, and that follows just 40 touchdowns being scored in 10 Sunday games, the lowest total for a Sunday since 1994. Entering play Monday, quarterbacks were averaging 13.95 points per game from passing production in Week 15, the lowest total we've seen since Week 15 of the 2017 season; that number barely moved up after last night's four QBs scored 14.05 per game, helped along by Justin Fields' last-second garbage-time touchdown. But no worries, Garrett Gilbert is here to save us tonight.
We do still have Jamey Eisenberg's waiver-wire picks for Week 16 ready for you, plus a special #AskFFT mailbag focusing on the Buccaneers injury issues, Antonio Brown's pending return, injury issues, and more. Feel free to email me at Chris.Towers@ViacomCBS.com with the subject line #AskFFT with your questions about Week 16, the offseason, or whatever else you want to let me know about to be included in future newsletters.
And, for help locking in your waiver-wire claims plus the latest on injures from around the NFL, join Heath Cummings, Adam Aizer and me on the FFT YouTube stream tonight at 6 p.m., where we'll be taking your questions live for an hour before Seahawks at Rams kicks off.
And here's what we've got on tap in today's newsletter:
- ➕Top Week 16 Waiver Wire Targets
- ❓#AskFFT Mailbag
There's no one obvious must-have player on this week's list, but if you're looking for RB help, there are some intriguing options available. You can find Jamey's full breakdown of his top targets here, but here are the top options:
Jamey Eisenberg's top targets
- Ronald Jones, RB, TB (36%) -- With Leonard Fournette (hamstring) and Giovani Bernard (hip) out for Week 16 against the Panthers, Jones might be a top-15 RB for Fantasy. I don't expect him to replicate Fournette's role in the passing game, but he averaged 18.95 points per game on 102.5 rushing yards in the four games Fournette missed last season, so expectations should be pretty high here.
- Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, DET (51%) -- St. Brown has at least 11 targets in three straight games, and across those games he has 26 catches for 249 yards and two touchdowns. He's benefited from the absences of T.J. Hockenson and D'Andre Swift in emerging as Jared Goff's preferred short-area target, but as long as those two remain out, he should remain worth starting.
- Justin Jackson, RB, LAC (13%) -- Jackson got his most run of the season in Week 15, racking up 86 yards on 13 carries while adding one catch for 13 yards, and now Austin Ekeler is on the COVID list and may not be cleared to play in time for Sunday's dream matchup against the Texans. Jackson would likely split time with Joshua Kelley -- who got a goal-line carry (and subsequently fumbled) last week -- but Jackson has been the much more effective player of the two and should be the lead back if Ekeler is out. He'd be a top-20 RB for the week.
- Samaje Perine, RB, CIN (25%) -- With Joe Mixon dealing with an ankle injury, Perine has a chance to play a big role in Week 16 against the Ravens, and while it's a tough matchup, there's reason to believe he could have a good game -- after all, he had 75 total yards and a touchdown the last time he faced them in Week 7. And, in the game prior to that, he led the team in RB snaps with Mixon limited by an ankle injury and had 83 yards and a touchdown with four catches. Perine figures to see three-down work if Mixon is out, and would be in the RB2 discussion.
- Jeff Wilson, RB, SF (25%) -- You can make a case Wilson should be the No. 2 priority with Elijah Mitchell's knee injury expected to remain an issue. He finally looked like the 2020 version of himself in Week 15, rushing for 110 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries while playing 88% of the snaps, and I think he would be an RB2 even against a tough Titans defense.
To get your questions answered in a future newsletter, send them to Chris.Towers@ViacomCBS.com with the subject line "#AskFFT":
Saib: Trust Tom Brady if only Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown are available? Still starting Cordarrelle Patterson or looking for alternatives? Also, overall thoughts on crazy/weird weeks like this one. Ignore it and stick with the larger sample size? Or can we extract something from it?
I'll paraphrase my co-worker Heath Cummings in answering the last part of this first: If this season has taught us anything, it's that overreacting to the previous week's events is a recipe for Fantasy disaster. The problem with that, of course, is that the NFL season is only 18 weeks long, so you only have so much evidence to go on even at the end of the season, and game plans and scripts change so much from week to week for reasons outside of a team's control, that you almost have to overreact at times.
But you've gotta be selective about it. You probably can't take too much from the Cardinals blowout loss to the Lions, unless you think they're going to make a habit of losing by multiple scores every week moving forward. The same goes for the Buccaneers, going against the Saints, a team that has given them huge problems the past two seasons, in a game where they lost arguably their three most important offensive players not named Brady.
But I think you can take something away from Brandin Cooks' big game, or Jeff Wilson's strong showing as the 49ers' clear lead back. And, while I don't think you can really expect the Bengals to be held to 15 points most weeks, their conservative gameplan Sunday is something we've seen from them throughout this season and highlights the downside in guys like Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins.
As for Brady, he's one of several quarterbacks who might look unexpectedly untrustworthy in Week 16 – notably Dak Prescott and Kyler Murray. The problem with trying to find another option is, there just aren't many quarterbacks playing well right now. In fact, the 13.9 Fantasy points in six-points-per-pass-TD scoring all NFL quarterbacks averaged entering Monday for Week 15 was the lowest mark for any week since Week 15 of 2018. It's bad out there, and I'm not looking to start someone like Jimmy Garoppolo or Jared Goff over Brady or Prescott.
As for Patterson, I think he's still going to be a top-20 RB for me this week, but there are some troubling trends relative to his early-season play. He's lining up less often as a wide receiver and running fewer pass routes as a result lately, which can be seen in the fact that he's averaging just 3.4 targets per game over the past five. It's a concern, but unless you can get Ronald Jones or Jeff Wilson (and Leonard Fournette and Elijah Mitchell are out), you're probably starting him.
John: What do you do with Antonio Brown?
Well, if you play in one of the 22% of CBS Fantasy leagues where Brown is currently available, you need to make sure you add him. Wide receiver has been a pretty weak position of late, and unless you've got three top-15 WR, you're probably starting Brown this week. Because he's probably going to be a top-20 WR for me, at least. Maybe the Buccaneers will go with a more run-heavy approach with Chris Godwin out and Mike Evans likely out as well, but that really hasn't been their M.O. at all during the Brady/Bruce Arians era. Which means Brown is likely returning to a significant role in a high-volume passing game, and it'll be hard to get away from him.
I thought Arians might freeze him out after having such strong words about Brown being on a zero-tolerance policy when they signed him, but Arians had equally strong words when asked about criticism he might take for integrating Brown back in after his suspension: "I could give a [well, you know what] what they think."
Kevin: Is this the most injury-stricken year in fantasy history?
I'm sure someone out there has the right data to allow them to answer this question, but injury information is often hard to come by, so I don't have a concrete answer for you. However, I can tell you that it sure feels that way, especially if we're including COVID absences – and we definitely should.
However, there really haven't been as many high-profile, long-term injuries as you might think. Among the top-24 running backs in preseason ADP, for example, only four have played fewer than 10 games so far this season. There have certainly been stretches where it felt like seemingly everyone was injured – Weeks 7-9 were especially bad – but outside of COVID absences, I'm not 100% sure this season has been any worse than any other.
Of course, there were some pretty significant preseason injuries that played a huge role, and the COVID absences have made things much more difficult than they would otherwise be, too. That's especially true over the past two weeks. The good news is, the latter won't be as much of an issue next season – I hesitate to say it won't be an issue at this point. However, given the changes in the COVID testing protocols and return-to-play policy, hopefully it won't be
Caleb: Would you fight to get Ronald Jones to play ahead of Ezekiel Elliott this coming week?
I've been the Elliott apologist of the FFT crew, and Sunday's game highlighted why I haven't wanted to give up on him: His role is just way too valuable to not start. Unless you've got really compelling alternatives, and I think Jones definitely qualifies for that if Fournette is out. He's averaged 18.95 PPR points per game in four games Fournette has missed over the past two seasons, with three rushing touchdowns and 102.5 rushing yards per game. I think Jones is going to be a top-15 RB in my rankings this week, and potentially even more than that.
Greg: Analysts used to scoff at keeping or drafting QBs with early picks. Is that still the case? Feels like the landscape has changed.
Some made this case coming into the season, and it's an interesting one. Last season, 12 quarterbacks averaged more than 25 Fantasy points per game, but that number has shrunk to seven this season. Similarly, we've got just 14 averaging 20 points per game, compared to 19 a year ago. The elite quarterbacks have given you an even bigger edge than last season, arguably.
But are we good enough to identify those elite quarterbacks to make it worth it? Among the top three in QB ADP in CBS Fantasy leagues entering the season, Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes are both averaging more than 25 points per game, but I don't think I'm telling any tales out of school when I say that Mahomes hasn't really been worth his lofty draft position despite his gaudy averages. However, of the seven currently averaging 25 points, six of them were taken among the first nine quarterbacks. As far as early-round picks go, that's a pretty phenomenal hit rate, and Matthew Stafford was the 11th QB taken on average in CBS leagues and Jalen Hurts (22.9 points per game) was QB12.
Locking in a difference maker at the position can be a significant edge, and with the downward trend in QB play we've seen since around Week 7 of the season, the edge the really good ones give you can be a big deal. Does that mean you should be taking a QB in the first round? No, probably not. But it might mean it's more defensible than ever to start considering one in the third or fourth round. Or, to put it another way, waiting until the late rounds at the position may be less defensible than ever.